As area residents continue cleaning up in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew they should keep in mind safety and health issues from the standing water left from rain and floodwaters.
State and local officials are reminding residents to “tip and toss” to eliminate as much standing water as they can around their homes. The water collected in containers such as flower pots, buckets, pet bowls and gutters become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
But expect to see more of those nuisance mosquitoes regardless.
State public health officials said storms with high winds and rain can wash away existing mosquito breeding sites but as standing water recedes, new breeding sites for mosquitoes develop.
The flooding from Hurricane Matthew has left conditions prime for mosquitoes to flourish.
“Based on experience with prior hurricanes there is a high probability that populations of nuisance mosquitoes, which often breed in floodplains, will increase,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Carl Williams. “These mosquitoes lay eggs on moist surfaces at sites where standing water occurs occasionally. The eggs remain dormant through a dry period and then hatch when covered with water. In this circumstance, very large broods of mosquitoes may emerge simultaneously.”
State officials say the mosquito that typically carries the Zika virus has not been found in North Carolina. The mosquitoes area residents are likely to see rarely transmit disease but can hamper cleanup efforts and create difficult conditions for those living near floodwaters.
State officials suggest using insect repellants such as DEET on exposed skin and treating clothing with permethrin.
Area residents can contact mosquito control offices to ask about spraying in their area. For residents in Carteret County, the health department still has free bags of mosquito dunks available to help control breeding in areas where it isn’t possible to eliminate standing water.
Onslow County saw rainfall amounts ranging from more than 3 inches in coastal areas like Swansboro and nearly 7 inches in more inland areas such as Richlands. While waters are receding from the New River, the county saw floodwater around areas like Northwest Bridge Road and Rhodestown Road. Waterfront and beach communities are also still drying out from coastal flooding and extreme high tides.
State officials also note that floodwaters may not be safe waters as they may contain sewage and other contaminants.
Residents cleaning up after flooding around their house should wear rubber boots and goggles during cleaning in affected areas, wash clothes worn during clean up in hot water and detergent and wash separately from uncontaminated clothes.
After completing cleanup, wash hands with soap and warm water. Use water that has been boiled for one minute and allow water to cool.
Residents with private wells for water and septic tanks for wastewater are advised to use caution if their property has received flooding.
Onslow County Environmental Health Director Walter Doyle said they have not received any requests from well owners to have their drinking water tested, but their staff stands ready to respond.
Flooding can introduce impurities into private drinking water sources. If a property owner has concerns about the safety of their drinking water well due to the recent flooding from Hurricane Matthew, Doyle said their staff can meet property owners on site to answer questions and collect water samples to send to a state lab for testing.
If homeowners are concerned about contaminants they should use bottled water or boil water until their water source can be tested.
For those with septic systems, Doyle noted that residents should use caution during cleanup efforts to prevent damage from debris and stump removal. He said vehicles or equipment can crush drainfields, tanks and distribution boxes, especially with the ground being saturated.
If there has been damage or sewage is noticeable, close off the area to keep people and animals out of the area and contact a professional to have the system inspected and repaired.
Doyle said homeowners can contact the Onslow County Health Department’s environmental health section for help.
“Onslow County has been blessed and has not been hit as hard as other area. If anyone has any kind of issue we’ll gladly assist,” Doyle said.
Contact Environmental Health at 910-938-5851 or Environmental_Health@onslowcountync.gov.